Friday, May 1, 2009

Five Questions (Caps Side)

As was done with Caps-Rangers, here's a different kind of preview from Washington's perspective.

1. What will your team need to do to beat the Penguins?

If the Caps simply play like they did against the New York Rangers and expect to advance, they're kidding themselves. In fact, the only two games against the Rangers that were acceptable were the pair of 4-0 shutouts in games three and five. In those contests, the Caps stormed the crease, put pressure on Henrik Lundqvist and got into the Rangers' heads. They'll have to do that every game against a much better Penguins team.

2. What would need to happen for the Penguins to win?

Keep doing what they're doing. The Pens have been on a roll ever since Dan Bylsma took over as head coach and they're nearing the form that got them to the Stanley Cup finals last year. Whether they'll get there again is a debate for another day but this much is clear: they might be the better team in this series. Both teams will play their hearts out in a very heated rivalry and it might come down to a game seven overtime.

3. Fan Favorite

Simeon Varlamov. There's no doubt that the Caps' young goalie has captured the hearts of Washingtonians. He may not understand English (although he's working on it), he may not talk to the coach (who doesn't want to jinx anything) and may be oblivious to what he's accomplishing. However, there's no denying that the Goalie of the Future is now the Goalie of the Present.

4. Your Team's Goat-to-Be

Michael Nylander. He probably has played his last game with the Caps and sticks out like a sore thumb on the current roster. That's not to say there won't be other changes in the off-season, but Nylander had a horrible regular season (nine goals, 24 assists) and was invisible in the two games he played against the Rangers.

5. Top Storyline

History. It's impossible to ignore the fact that the Penguins have won six of the teams' previous seven postseason match-ups and caused more heartache for Caps' fans than any other franchise. Granted, the only player in this series that has participated in one of those match-ups is Sergei Gonchar (as a member of the Caps), but it's still the dark cloud that the Caps must escape. Until the Caps can consistently beat the Pens in the postseason, history will loom over the red, white and blue.

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